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Rethinking the Cost of Giving

Have you ever thought about the cost of giving?

What do I mean–the cost of giving?  At a practical personal level, in so many cases, we can make personal tangible gifts–of our time, a smile, a pat on the shoulder, an encouraging word.  And on the one hand, we can look and say to ourselves, “those gifts didn’t cost anything.”  But in truth they did.

The cost of making a gift starts with a life prepared, a life centered in faith in Christ.  It starts with the quiet time of reflection.  It starts with the infusion of scripture and the words of God indwelling in our lives.  And from that indwelling, we can begin to have some outflow–true gifts, real gifts.

But let’s move to the world of giving financially to ministries and churches.  In the interest of being a “wise steward,” I sometimes tell myself that I know what’s best for a given ministry.  And similarly I see myself and many others that I work with who talk about making a gift with direct impact. 

In fact, in our world today, we exalt the idea of direct impact.  We want to help the child in need, provide the meal for the homeless, or the medicine for the sick.  But somehow, in reaching for direct impact, we seen to want to ignore the hands that deliver the medicine.  In other words, we’ve taken pride in saying that “we don’t give to overhead” or “we don’t give to bricks and mortar.”

As an aside, part of the giving that America makes is under the rubric of a charitable income tax deduction.  The government allows us to deduct our gifts against our income and thus reduce our income tax liability.  The deduction is a gift.  It is not a matter of right, and the deduction costs the government revenue.  Yet the government makes the gift to American individuals because the government wants to encourage charity as a matter of public policy.  I wonder what would happen if the government measured an individual’s deduction by whether it was having a “direct impact?”

Let’s put it simply.  There’s a cost to giving.  There’s a cost to running a ministry, and I think that we ought to be willing to support those who deliver the meal, give the shot, carry the bags of rice, and so on.  Now, understand, by no means would I say that those costs should not be undertaken wisely and shrewdly.  But let’s celebrate the cost of the caregiver in the same way we celebrate the care being delivered.

About Bill High

Bill is CEO of the Signatry: A Global Christian Foundation. He works with families, individual givers, and financial advisers to share the foundation’s message regarding biblical generosity and charitable giving. He is the co-author with David Green of Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously: » Learn More

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